Indy gets a mobile stroke unit

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– The black and red exterior of the IU Health’s new mobile stroke unit may look like a normal ambulance, but the inside tells the story.  It’s essentially a mobile emergency room made especially for stroke patients.

“The key feature here is the CT scanner. And this is the same ct scanner that is up in the Neuro intensive care unit,” said Dr. Jason Mackey, a stroke neurologist with IU Health.

Another feature of the mobile stroke unit is its ceiling mounted cameras, which are used for tele-medicine.

“You can see these cameras. There’s one there and one here. We use these cameras to assess patients while they are being transported to the nearest hospital,” said Dr. Mackey.

Dr. Mackey has worked over three years to make this stroke unit a reality. It’s about saving brain tissue when someone goes down with a stroke.

“The name of the game in stroke is time,” said Dr. Mackey. “The more time goes by, the less the likelihood that the patients will do well. So the faster that we can diagnose somebody with an ischemic stroke, the faster that we can treat them.”

There are still some hurdles the stroke unit must pass and it’s not dispatched to every township in Marion County. It can only respond to patients in center, Washington, Perry, Franklin and Warren townships. It’s funded, for the time being, through philanthropy.

The ride isn’t covered by insurance.

Dr. Mackey has to prove that this mobile stroke unit saves lives, which is why he wants it to be part of an ongoing study.

“We want to be part of a study that shows these are effective and that they make sense financially. So there’s a study out of Texas that we’re going to be a part of that helps assess clinical outcomes, but is also a feasibility study,” he said.

The mobile stroke unit works in conjunction with Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services (IEMS). It’s been on nearly 100 runs since this past June. Dr. Mackey believes once it’s established, communities everywhere will want the service and speed it offers.

“The people in Indianapolis do have access to the best treatments for stroke. The question becomes why aren’t we in West Lafayette or Anderson or Kokomo? The answer is we have to start somewhere,” said Dr. Mackey.

Mobile stroke units in cities around the country have been found to reduce treatment time by 30 minutes. That’s significant. Dr. Mackey says every minute during a stroke, you lose about two million neurons. Early treatment may mean the difference between losing mobility and speech or not.

For more on the IU Health mobile stroke unit, click on the link below.

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